First district Democratic Congressman G.K. Butterfield is taking issue with statements by redistricting leaders Sen. Rucho and Rep. Lewis about his input in the new congressional map.
Butterfield’s district has fallen below apportionment guidelines in the past 10 years and needs additional voters added to it.
In a joint statement issued Friday, Lewis and Rucho said they “sought the advice” of Butterfield in bringing his district from the coast all the way into downtown Raleigh.
“Congressman Butterfield acknowledged that the legal deficiencies of the existing First District could be addressed through the addition of either the minority community located in Wake County or the minority community residing in Durham County. Congressman Butterfield believed that including Wake County in his district would give him the opportunity to represent the communities reflected by Shaw University and St. Augustine College. Between these two options, Congressman Butterfield advised us that he preferred the addition to his district of the minority population in Wake County, as opposed to the minority population in Durham County.
"We elected to accommodate Congressman Butterfield’s preference.”
Butterfield agrees he met with redistricting staff in June, but his memory of the meeting differs substantially from the chairs’ account.
“They called me in about 10 days ago and showed me a map that included my district, but there was no data on it,” Butterfield said.
“I was trying to get my bearings. I asked, 'Where’s Shaw, Where’s St Aug’s?'' he recalled. "I was trying to get my bearings and figure out where the core of the African-American community was on that map. That’s probably where that came from.”
As for being offered a choice between Wake and Durham counties, Butterfield was unequivocal.
“I categorically deny that. No one has given me a choice at all. I challenge anyone to document that I said that.”
“I have never expressed to the Republican leadership my preference for the district. What I asked them to do was to keep my district in place and find 97,500 new people, half of them African-American. There are many ways that it can be done.”
“No one gave me a choice,” he reiterated.
Asked for comment on Butterfield’s recounting of the meeting, House Redistricting Chairman David Lewis said, “My statement is [an] accurate accounting of our meetings. I stand by my statement."
‘A very partisan map’
Butterfield expects the map will fail to win federal pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act because four VRA counties he used to represent have been removed from his district, even while Raleigh was being added to it.
“The map that I’m looking at, it doesn’t protect those minority communities - Wayne, Craven, Beaufort, and Gates,” Butterfield said. “Those four counties are entitled to Section 5 protection, and their vote is going to be completely diluted if this plan is enacted.”
Butterfield stressed that the proposal released Friday still has a long way to go: public hearings, a legislative vote, and federal review lie ahead. But he said he’s “very concerned” about the map.
“It’s a very partisan map, there’s no question about that,” he said. “Personally, I think it violates the spirit and the intent of the VRA by packing minority voters into minority districts. Many African-American voters that were in Kissell’s district have been shifted over to Mel Watt’s [12th] district. There’s no justification for that.”